In a short span of three years, Red Tail Studio and founders of Sroth Code Games has made a dent in Nepal’s budding gaming industry, and greater things are waiting on the horizon.
The last few decades have seen video games globally becoming the most sought after products in interactive entertainment. With the growing video gaming culture also in Nepal, some domestic startups are trying to make their mark in game development. Red Tail Studio is one such company working to create home grown products in interactive entertainment.
The story of Red Tail Studio began with a video games development company Sroth Code Games in 2016, which started as a winter code camp. But as people became interested in their work, Uttam Adhikari and Uday Gurung decided to start Sroth Code as a company. Both of them used to be interested in games from an early age but did not have a concrete idea from which to begin. With the code camp, they discovered the Unity 3D game development engine whereby they found game development feasible.
The team later grew to five after Bishal Manandhar, Rizma Joshi and Nischal Amatya joined them. Today they employ around 10 people in their company. Registered in 2017, the company was started with an initial investment of Rs 1.2 Million. Now, in their third year, they expect to grow by 200 to 300 percent.
Three years later, Sroth Code morphed into a new company called Red Tail Studio.
The journey from ‘Haku Run’
Sroth Code released its first game, Haku Run, in 2017. It was well-received. “Within three days, there were over 10,000 downloads,” they recall. It was trending on social media, after which they felt that there were some possibilities. “That’s how the whole idea of game development started,” says Gurung.
In its journey of three years, the company has already developed more than 30 small games, and one major project ‘Chronicles of the Himalayas’ that is still ongoing. They have developed games such as Goat Ventures, Flip It, Fire Work, Pong Havoc, Tap Tap Turn, and Stack Rush, among many others.
Adhikari shares they have recently realised that working in only one vertical of a venture makes it difficult to keep going. So they are venturing into the physical side of the gaming business. “We are coming up with a gaming store; not just online but a physical gaming store where developers in the market can upload their games and the customers can purchase the game,” he adds.
Once the online store is live, their games can be purchased from a minimum of Rs 1. “At this point in time, the maximum is Rs 300 for Chronicles of the Himalayas which is still under development,” they reveal. Within 2020, everyone will be able to access the store and purchase the game.
Encouragingly, Chronicles of the Himalaya even reached the finale of the 2019 edition of the Games Development World Championship, an annual competition for games developers and anyone interested in games development.
Idea versus Execution
Gurung says that developing games is as difficult as it is easy to play. “It is easy to bring out ideas but more difficult when it comes to implementation. That’s so clear and it is not only for us but all other entrepreneurs as well,” he says.
Generic difficulties such as issues of funding, investors, place, partners are always there. Besides, for a company like theirs, they say that there is no platform where they can sell their products. As a business, they cannot sustain themselves only by developing free-to-play games, so they have to sell games, but there is no platform. Nevertheless, they are positive that, along with the problems, there is also a space for opportunities. “There is no marketplace where we can sell our products. However, we are working to create it,” says Adhikari.
Although there are other software companies and a few other companies that work in the area of interactive entertainment, they claim to be the only company to have been developing their original products. Likewise, the possibility of scalability is global which differentiates them from other similar companies.
Games as a Medium to Tell Stories
Initially, they started with the motive of reflecting Nepali culture, but with time and experience, they have broadened their thinking. They now aspire to tell stories of the Indian Sub-Continent through games. Currently, they are working on the Chronicles of the Himalayas which tells the story of a young Sherpa boy.
“Nepal and the countries of the Indian Sub-Continent have a culture of oral story transformation. We have lots of stories to tell and contents to present. So our choice of medium is games,” they explain. It is a product that can be distributed globally through the internet. They state that if the product is original and people like the product, they will buy it regardless of the language or other perceived barriers.
Clientele and Feedback
When they opened subscriptions for their underdevelopment game Chronicles of the Himalayas, they had over 18,000 downloads and got more than 40,000 subscribers. “Among them around 60-70 percent are foreigners,” they clarify.
Adhikari says that their products are more appreciated by foreigners. In Nepal, some compare them with high profile games such as Far Cry whose budget is more than USD 60 million. They inform that their whole budget for Chronicles of the Himalayas is USD 60,000. However, there are also others who believe in their vision of bundling digital products and reaching a global audience through the internet, but in small numbers.
The positive feedback has encouraged them to grow more. They consider customer feedback and satisfaction a priority. “Even though we feel bad when our work is criticised, these are the things which help us develop better games in the future”, they assert.
Setting Target Audience
Adhikari clarifies the misconception that games are only for youths. Games are played by children, youths, including adult men as well as women. Chronicles of the Himalayas has around 50,000 subscribers today among which 10 percent of audiences are above 40 years.
While developing a game, the target audience is set based on the content rather than age. “We do not develop games by targeting a certain age group. Rather only after the game is developed, will we know if the game is for a particular age group,” says Gurung. According to him, the majority of players of Red Tail games are aged 13 to 35.
The Scenario in Nepal: Challenges and Opportunities
Game development in Nepal is in its initial phase. Along with this, the community is also rigid. “If any problem arises in any other areas, their solution can be easily found on the internet. But in this field, engines, tools are not enough and the contents are also insufficient. In simple terms, finding a solution is difficult in this field,” explains Gurung.
Unlike other areas, the field is also expensive. Hiring an expert for training will cost USD 400 an hour.
“Understanding has not matured. Even some investors have a lack of proper understanding in this field,” they say. However, the perspective of people is changing. People now believe that a career can be made through game development, even in Nepal. “Our internet penetration is 60 percent now, but we have an audience of around 100,000 in the Nepali market,” states Gurung. They believe that there are lots of opportunities today and are hopeful for the country.
“Many developers are getting outsourced work and a certain amount of jobs is being created. So the scope is growing,” says Adhikari. Sroth Code Games founders believe that one of the possible items in the digital realm that can be exported from Nepal are video games.
To Budding Entrepreneurs
“If you have an idea, the capability of executing the idea and helping to solve any problem, then you should give it a try. If someone is not afraid to fail, but learn something, it’s a great thing to do. Also, a person should be able to take criticism,” says Adhikari.
“Along with this, the scalability factor and if that idea can bring positive impact, it’s worth trying,” adds Gurung.